Surveillance Monster

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Big Brother is near, reports the ACLU:
AP storySummaryFull report (pdf)

It says erosion of the Fourth Amendment is a key problem:

In recent years – in no small part as the result of the failed "war on drugs" – Fourth Amendment principles have been steadily eroding. The circumstances under which police and other government officials may conduct warrantless searches has been rapidly expanding. The courts have allowed for increased surveillance and searches on the nation's highways and at our "borders" (the legal definition of which actually extends hundreds of miles inland from the actual border). And despite the Constitution's plain language covering "persons" and "effects," the courts have increasingly allowed for warrantless searches when we are outside of our homes and "in public." Here the courts have increasingly found we have no "reasonable expectation" of privacy and that therefore the Fourth Amendment does not apply.

NEXT: Forever, 20 Years at a Time

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  1. The left has long considered the Constitution to be a “living breathing document”. If it is, and the meaning changes with the times, then why bother having one?

  2. I think the reason we’ve been willing to give up so many of our rights over the past 200 years is, ironically, our freedom itself. We have for so many generations lived without really seeing government oppression of the sort seen in dictatorships around the world (unless you happen to be a drug dealer, maybe) that we really don’t understand what they are in place for. Popular entertainment glorifies the ‘rogue cop’ who breaks the rules & gets the bad guy. Typically Fourth Amendment protections are seen as handicaps for law enforcement that let the bad guys get away, not as a necessary limit on government power. We all pay lip service to their necessity, but when our primary life experience with such things is that they let criminals evade the legal system much more often than the violations of such restrictions harm innocents, it’s not surprising they have eroded.

    People who have lived under Communist rule in Russia or China might feel differently. Defenders of liberty would do well to tap and publicize these peoples’ experiences to remind the general public that we’re not as far up the slipperly slope from that sort of thing as they imagine.

  3. Jim,

    I sort of agree with your sentiments; perhaps as our governments get more zealous in arresting people for petty “crimes” and our legislators get more zealous in creating new crimes along with their mandatory sentencing, etc. each victim of our government will become an advocate of reigning it in (sorry for the bad pun).

    But I disagree with your feeling that people who have lived under Chinese or Russian rule are a good reminder. They ought to be, but in practice newcomers are more willing to capitulate. Immigrants don’t realize the freedom they are supposed to have, they instead relish the new freedoms they gained. Freedom is slavery.

  4. The ACLU is a loser. It’s helping nobody mainly because of its partisanship. The many examples they have given have been around for years. The ineffectiveness and unconstitutionality of money laundering laws, the RICO laws, etc. Nothing new. Why have they not been screaming and yelling about it before? And all these things existed for more than a decade before Sept 11. So the very fact that they raise these issues now and linking it with the current crop of laws is another example of what fine-weather friends they are of liberty.

    And the part about how good technology is getting. Let me guess… The solution is a law restricting/regulating what can be recorded on your private property.

  5. Christ, the ACLU drives me nuts. If they could count to ten like normal people (instead of skipping 2, 9, and 10), they would have realized that the government has been tromping on our civil rights for years! Ask Weaver, Koresh, or any number of gun owners and dealers.

    Of course, it was just us crazy gun nuts back then, who cares about us?

    -Donut, needing a bumper sticker from the GOA saying “Worried about your Civil Rights? Welcome to the party, pal!”

  6. Seriously, is there an civil rights ACLU-like organization which isn’t a subsidiary of the Democratic party? Also, I’m not really all that worried about nativity scenes and stuff like that – there’s much bigger things to be worried about.

    I’d genuinely be interested in joining something like that.

  7. I’m pretty sure the ACLU has been critical of RICO since the beginning…

  8. Some of the most brainwashing things available are TV cop shows. They inculcate the idea that when police say, “Can I come in?” You have to let them in. And “would you come with us please?” means you have to come with them. Unless they are arresting you or have a warrent, you don’t have to go, let them in or talk to them. TV shows would have us believe you do. I don’t avocate confrontation, but when you abrogate your rights you have only one person to blame.

  9. You ask, “Seriously, is there an civil rights ACLU-like organization which isn’t a subsidiary of the Democratic party? ”

    The Institute for Justice, IJ.ORG is precisely that. It is small, but it is winning in court against the government, in areas of civil forfeiture, privileges and immunities clause arguments, and school choice.

    IJ is not yet working unreasonable search and seizure, and that may be due to funding.

    Back on topic, I’m concerned where courts create Fourth Amendment exceptions in the name of pragmatism. Here in Joisey, the courts have found random drug testing of high school students to be resonable, because there is an overriding desire to halt teen drug use. But what rights can ever exists if pragmatism is allowed to overrule them?

  10. As much as I don’t always agree with the ACLU, I also don’t think it helps a whole hell of a lot by whining about where they’ve been all of these years. If they finally have found religion on real privacy and civil rights issues, why complain about it? That only distances us from a potential new ally. Seriously, this is not the way to make friends. I don’t agree 100% with the report (such as the language on Gramm-Leach-Bliley privacy provisions), but at least it could be a good start to a constructive dialogue.

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